'We are not proud of the amount' – Namibia reacts to Germany’s genocide settlement

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A memorial to the genocide of the Herero and Nama (1904-1907) committed by German colonial troops in the centre of the Namibian capital Windhoek. The inscription translates aloud: Your blood nourishes our freedom. Photo: Jürgen Bätz/dpa (Photo by Jürgen Bätz/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A memorial to the genocide of the Herero and Nama (1904-1907) committed by German colonial troops in the centre of the Namibian capital Windhoek. The inscription translates aloud: Your blood nourishes our freedom. Photo: Jürgen Bätz/dpa (Photo by Jürgen Bätz/picture alliance via Getty Images)
  • Namibia says the settlement amount was the best they could do in the negotiation process.
  • Namibia's negotiation team said they faced "heavy resistance" from Germany.
  • Namibia refers to the settlement amount as a "reparations package", despite German refusal to use the term.

Namibia's government said it would accept Germany's historic apology, despite disgruntlement over the proposed settlement of 1.1 billion euro (R18 billion).

In a press conference on Friday, Namibia's Vice President Nangolo Mbumba revealed the years of wrangling it took to get to the settlement.

The vice president said:

We are not proud of the amount, but we can say that our negotiators did the very best that they could do under the process given to them.

Last week, Germany and Namibia reached an agreement on the 1904 to 1908 genocide of the ovaHerero and the Nama people. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that his country will now recognise the atrocities committed by colonial troops as genocide.

Germany's president will also travel to Namibia at a later stage to apologise in person to the Namibian people.

The deal, however, carefully avoided the term reparations, choosing instead to refer to the package as development funding. It also avoided individual responsibility to the descendants of the ovaHerero and the Nama.

ALSO READ | We ask 'descendants of victims for forgiveness' - Germany officially calls Namibia killings 'genocide'

Still, despite this, Namibia's government referred to the package as a "reparations package" in its official statement.

"These attempts, as laudable as they may have been, did not yield the results we had expected in order to open a new chapter between Namibia, the affected communities, and the Federal Republic of Germany," said Mbumba.

Tough rounds of negotiation

Namibia first approached Germany about redress for the genocide in 2006, but it was only in 2015 that Germany agreed to negotiations.

Over six years and nine rounds, the Namibian negotiating team faced what they described as "heavy resistance" from Germany over the acknowledgement of genocide. The issue of land restitution was also a sticking point.

Germany first offered 298 million euros (R4,92 billion), which Namibia refused. Then 300 million euros (R4,95 billion), then 700 million euros (R11,56 billion) with a concessional loan for a water desalinations project, which Namibia rejected because the loan had "nothing to do with the genocide", said Ebson Uanguta, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Namibia.

"That's why the negotiations were protracted because the elephant in the room was the amount, the quantum," said Uanguta.

It was the hot-button issue of land restitution that finally brought the amount up to 895 million euros (R14,78 billion), and then the agreed upon 1,1 billion euros. (The Namibian Dollar and South Africa Rand are 1:1).

How the money will be spent

The funds will be split into programmes for reconciliation and reconstruction and will be administered by a special implementation body that is yet to be determined.

In the areas where the descendants of the ovaHerero and Nama live, the funds will be used to speed up land reformation, develop agricultural projects, create access to energy, water and other infrastructure development and build Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges.

The reconciliation programme will include research and archival projects that will preserve the colonial legacy, as well as the culture and heritage of the victims of the genocide.

The funding will be allocated over 30 years as follows:

50 million euros (R 825 million) for reconciliation projects

130 million euros (R 2,1 billion) for renewable energy

150 million euros (R2,5) for vocational training

100 million euros (R1,7 billion) for rural roads

130 million euros (R 2,1 billion) for rural water supply and sanitation

450 million euros (R7,4 billion) for land acquisition and training

"We need to recognise that the amount of 1,1 billion euro agreed up between the two governments is not enough and does not adequately address the initial quantum of reparations intitially submitted to the German government," said Mbumba.

ALSO READ | Germany offers Namibia R18bn to heal colonial 'genocide'

"However, in any negotiation, and based on the principle of give and take, the government of Namibia believes that the amount, even if it is not enough, Germany has agreed to commit to revisit and renegotiate the amount as the implementation of the reparation ensues."

Still, this did not mean a promise of more money, Uanguta clarified. The negotiations had brought an "elevated relationship" between German and Namibia, which could mean that "issues" could be discussed at a later stage.

Namibia's parliament will now debate the settlement and how to respond to any public dissatisfaction.

The News 24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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